The manufacturer of the door plug that blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight and plummeted 16,000 feet onto an Oregon man’s property was the target of a recent class-action lawsuit that alleged “widespread and sustained quality failures.”
The federal lawsuit against Spirit Aerosystems was filed less than a month before the mid-air emergency aboard the ill-fated Boeing 737 MAX 9 on Friday, NBC News reported.
Investors in the company — the main supplier of fuselage parts to Boeing — had emphasized the importance of the 737 MAX program after deadly accidents involving the model in 2018 and 2019, according to the outlet.
Those crashes, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killed 346 people combined, resulting in a temporary global grounding of the jets and igniting concerns over Boeing’s quality control and safety, the report noted.
Although Spirit AeroSystems made promises about its improved processes and safeguards, it allegedly “concealed from investors that Spirit suffered from widespread and sustained quality failures,” according to the lawsuit.
While the filing didn’t specifically mention door plugs, that component is attached to fuselages, NBC News noted.
The lawsuit cited “the routine presence of foreign object debris” in Spirit AeroSystems’ products, missing fasteners and peeling paint – alleging that the failures were the result of a culture that prioritized production and profits over quality control.
Also mentioned in the suit were mis-drilled holes on the airliner’s aft pressure bulkhead, “a very significant problem” that a quality auditor for Spirit AeroSystems revealed in October 2022, according to the outlet.
Spirit AeroSystems allegedly concealed the issue with the bulkhead — which is necessary to maintain cabin pressure — after it was reported, according to the filing.
In August, Boeing publicly announced that it identified “fastener holes that did not conform to our specifications in the aft pressure bulkhead on certain 737 airplanes,” the complaint reportedly states.
The company’s quality failures were so severe and persistent that Boeing placed it on probation from 2018 through 2021, according to the lawsuit.
In March 2022, Spirit AeroSystems investors learned that an employee was allegedly told to falsify documents to underreport the number of defects in the company’s products, NBC News reported.
“I have lost faith on the quality organization here at Spirit and this is my last cry for help into resolving this issue,” the employee reportedly said in an email.
Spirit AeroSystems didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News, but in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch it said it “strongly disagrees with the assertions made by plaintiffs in the amended complaint and intends to vigorously defend against the claims. Spirit will not comment further as to the pending litigation.”
The complaint was initially filed in federal court in May and was amended in December, according to CBS News. The company has no relationship with Spirit Airlines.
The Post reached out to the company on Thursday.
A spokesperson for Boeing told NBC News that the company has nothing to add regarding the lawsuit.
“We are committed to ensuring every Boeing airplane meets design specifications and the highest safety and quality standards,” Boeing said Monday in a statement about the Alaska Airlines incident.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun fought back tears while “acknowledging our mistake” that caused the terrifying accident, in which none of the 177 people aboard was seriously hurt.
“We’re going to approach this. … We’re going to approach it with 100% and complete transparency every step of the way,” Calhoun told employees during a meeting at Boeing’s 737 aircraft factory near Seattle on Tuesday.
Calhoun also told CNBC that Boeing is “not going to point fingers there,” when asked about mounting scrutiny against Spirit Aerosystems.
“Yes it escaped their factory, but then it escaped ours too,” he added.
The National Transportation Safety Board has since said the incident could have been caused by hardware intended to keep the fuselage panel secure that was never actually installed.